Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb for short) was often accused of Islamophobia, but he rejected that label, saying it was “backward thinking.”
In 2012, Muslims sued Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper Charb edited, over its cartoons of Muhammad. The lawsuit alleged that the paper was inciting racial hatred. In response, Charb wrote a piece denying that he or his staff were Islamophobes, saying the word was a kind of newspeak and backward thinking.
Charb’s piece, titled “No, Charlie Hebdo Isn’t Racist!” was published by Le Monde in 2013. In the wake of the attack in Paris this week, in which Charb and nine other Charlie Hebdo staffers were killed, the Toronto Star published an English translation of a portion of the piece:
Charlie, our Charlie Hebdo, is feeling decidedly ill. Because an unbelievable lie is going around, among more and more people, and we hear it every day. According to them, Charlie Hebdo has become a racist sheet.
One day, an Arab taxi driver tells someone who works for the paper, whom he recognizes, to get out of his car – supposedly because of images mocking the Muslim religion. Another day, someone refuses to do an interview with us because he “doesn’t speak to a newspaper full of racists.”
It remains to understand why. Why has this ridiculous idea been spreading like a contagious disease? We are Islamaphobes, claim those who defame us. Which means, in their own kind of Newspeak, that we are racists. That’s how this backward thinking has won over so many people.
Forty years ago, it was considered obligatory to jeer, run down, even crap on religion. Anyone who set about to criticize the way the world was going could not fail to question the great power of the biggest clerical organizations. But according to some people, in truth more and more people, these days you’ve got to shut your mouth.
Charlie still devotes many of its cover illustrations to Papists. But the Muslim religion, imposed like a flag on innumerable people across the planet, as far away as Indonesia, must somehow be spared. Why the hell?
Charb was one of 12 people killed in Wednesday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.